Bodacious Space Pirates
Episode Count: 26
Production Studio: Satelight
Back in 2012 I started getting into Age of Sail-style science fiction in the form of David Weber’s Honor Harrington and David Drake’s Republic of Cinnabar Navy. I have enjoyed both, though I have a preference for the Republic of Cinnabar Navy in part due to its smaller scale. A major reason for my sudden interest was due to my following the online simulcast of Bodacious Space Pirates at the beginning of that year.
Marika Kato is a fairly typical high school freshman living on the independent colony world Sea of Morningstar. This changes one evening when a pair of strangers whom her mother seems to recognize visit. The reason they’ve come is to announce the recent death of Marika’s father Gonzaemon Kato. This comes as a surprise to her, as she wasn’t aware that he had still been alive. But the bigger surprise comes when Marika is informed that he was the captain of the space pirate ship Bentenmaru. Well, technically not pirates, but rather privateers. You see, about a hundred years ago, Sea of Morningstar was not independent but wished to be so and revolted. To beef up their meager naval forces, letters of marque were issued to space pirates. Though the war is long over, these government-sanctioned pirates are still around, primarily working as independent troubleshooters. And this is where Marika comes into the picture. You see, a key condition to the letter of marque is that the captaincy may only be passed on through blood inheritance (presumably to discourage more aggressive forms of promotion by the crew). And as Gonzaemon sired no other children, that makes Marika the Bentenmaru’s new captain. Now this isn’t quite as preposterous as it may sound at first. As a member of her school’s (space) yachting club, she at the very least knows her way around a spaceship. However, Marika initially believes that the whole thing is all a bizarre joke. However, a bit of research not only reveals that the Bentenmaru is real, but her mom appears in an older picture of the crew. Even so, this is all a bit sudden and Marika needs some time to think about it. Though judging from the sweet bicorn she sports on the DVD cover and the fact that there wouldn’t be much of a series if she didn’t accept, it’s pretty much a given what her ultimate decision will be.
In most science fiction which emulates the Age of Sail, the protagonists are typically members of their homeworld’s navy. So it’s an interesting change of pace to focus on privateering, which historically was presented as an honorable and patriotic profession (even though the reality didn’t always live up to the romance). A considerable plus is how the initial storyline is not rushed. Rather than have Marika jump in without a second thought or be dragged in while protesting her destiny, a middle ground is taken where she mulls over the matter at her leisure. It also helps that Marika is a genuinely likeable protagonist whose upbeat and ever so slightly ditzy personality manages to be charming rather than grating. If there’s one significant flaw in the series, I would say it’s the presence of the Yachting Club, specifically their members. They are a necessary component of the series as far as establishing Marika’s competence with spaceship operations. However, they are also largely a collection of one-note personalities who get more screen time than they really deserve. This becomes especially obvious during a five episode arc where the Yachting Club operates the Bentenmaru while the regular crew is quarantined thanks to some tainted cargo. That particular stretch was unadulterated pain in which the only saving grace is that it can be skipped over without consequence. Thankfully, the series manages to regain momentum for a strong finish.
Among the useable themes present in Bodacious Space Pirates are:
- The Unexpected Inheritance: An excellent method for starting off an adventure or even a campaign is to have some distant relative of one of the characters kick the bucket and bequeath something to him. It could be just about anything, like a spoo ranch, or a phlebotinum mine, or a hundred million dollars (though non-liquid assets generally make for more viable adventure hooks). Claiming the inheritance can be an adventure in its own right by having some unusual conditions in the will. If intended as a one-off scenario, the inheritance could be a scam concocted by nefarious types for a variety of unsavory reasons. If the inheritance takes the form of real estate, it can easily serve as a base of operations for the campaign.
- The Ginormous Structure of Mystery: If there’s one thing guaranteed to be shmuck bait for player characters, it’s a vaguely sinister structure which no one in living memory has ever explored and lived to tell the tale. If it happens to be mobile in some fashion (moving either in a set pattern or seemingly at random), so much the better. The edifice could be a remnant of a dead civilization, or a portal to another realm, or the base of a malignant intelligence. It could be packed with the usual gamut of monsters, traps, and similar obstacles, or be eerily desolate. For those out for loot, this could consist of conventional wealth, a stash of lost magic or technology, a repository of knowledge, or something a bit more esoteric.
- The Profession Pogrom: This one is obviously best suited for campaigns where the player characters share a common line of work. A mini-campaign can center around fellow members of the shared profession being mysteriously killed off. Ideally, this should be hinted at in adventures preceding it, like an occasional mention of an associate who has gone missing. The perpetrator could range from being a lone nutjob (usually with considerable resources) to a full-fledged organization. Motives can be just as varied. If the trade is of the freelancing type, it could be another such person who wishes to cut down on the competition. Perhaps it’s someone who had a traumatic experience with a member of the profession and is blowing it out of proportion with a rampage of vengeance. A cabal of some sort might regard the actions of the profession as an impediment to their agenda and have chosen to take extreme measures.